Certified translations in the UK


I’m often asked if I can provide sworn translations, but the truth is that there’s no such thing as a sworn translation in the UK. Translators here only provide certified translations because, unlike our colleagues in countries such as France, there’s no procedure in place for becoming a sworn translator. Many clients who enquire about this are from countries that recognise sworn translators, so I understand why they might assume that it’s the same in the UK. To clear things up, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss this here.

Firstly, I can see why this is confusing. It all seems unnecessarily complex because it’s not always clear what we mean by certified, sworn and official translations. To add to the confusion, plenty of UK-based translation agencies also use the words ‘sworn’ and ‘certified’ interchangeably. They sometimes make it sound like it’s a long-winded process, but I’d like to tell you that no fancy quill or ceremony is necessary if you need a translation for official purposes.

As I mentioned at the start, British universities and government bodies recognise certified translations. This means that your translator needs to declare that the translation is accurate (click here for an example of the wording). No special seal is needed; your translation is good to go if your translator clearly signs and dates the declaration. Depending on what the certified translation is for, you might also need your translator to fasten it to a copy of the original document and send it to you in the post in a protective envelope.

It’s important to note that the Passport Office has some specific requirements about who can certify the translation:

1 - The translator should be a full member of an official organisation, such as the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI).

It’s quick and easy to browse through the CIOL and ITI directories to find qualified translators, so it makes sense to choose a translator that way. I’m a CIOL member and I use their guide when certifying translations.

2 - If you’re using a translation agency instead of a freelance translator, the agency should be a member of the Association of Translation Companies.

A notarised translation might be required in some rare cases. This means the translator will declare that the translation is accurate by signing a statement in the presence of a notary. Remember, however, that a notary won’t read through the translation to check its accuracy and quality.

As you can see, obtaining a certified translation in the UK is quite straightforward. If you’re still curious or need a certified translation from Arabic, Italian or Spanish into English, I’d be happy to help or offer further advice.